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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Feb 8, 2008

Birmingham hope Zarate has the Dugarry effect

Birmingham City number two Roy Aitken is looking for on-loan Argentinian striker Mauro Zarate to make the same short-term impact as Christophe Dugarry.

French World Cup winner Dugarry joined Blues at the tail-end of a glittering career five years ago and he helped them survive in the top flight.

Zarate is only at the start of his career but the player on loan from Al-Sadd was one of the stars of last year's FIFA Under-20 World Cup and has impressed in two substitute appearances for City.

Now he may be given his chance from the start by manager Alex McLeish in Saturday's Premier League clash at West Ham, especially with joint leading scorer Olivier Kapo suspended.

Aitken said: 'Can Zarate have the same impact as Dugarry? You are talking about a different type of player. Dugarry was an experienced pro, while this is a young boy who is making his way in the game.

'But, if he has the same impact as Dugarry had, I'd be delighted. That is what we are looking for and, when any player comes in, you are looking for them to spark.

'We have brought Mauro in to play games and make an impact over the next three or four months. When the manager brought in James McFadden and Mauro, he was looking for people who can change a game - and both can do that.

'Mauro has shown when he has come on as a substitute that he has got the ability to beat a defender. He has got that bit of skill, is an exciting player to watch and a crowd-pleaser.

'Mauro is trying to make a name for himself. He scores goals and he gives us that extra dimension in the front third. He is an attack-minded player.

'We brought him and James McFadden to the club to give us that extra bit of match-winning ability.'

Aitken believes Zarate has come to terms quickly with the demands of the English game.

He said: 'To come into the pace of the English game is hard for him but he has looked lively and really raring to go and has done so in training as well.

'Mauro has already showed good strength of character and good fitness and has natural ability.'

Kapo will have to serve a one-match ban after collecting his fifth booking of the campaign in the 2-0 defeat at Sunderland last week.

But the Tunisian duo of midfielder Mehdi Nafti and central defender Radhi Jaidi are available after their country's elimination from the African Nations Cup.

Meanwhile, manager Alex McLeish has played down reports that he is on the verge of signing Senegal international Lamine Diatta.

The 32-year-old defender is a free agent having bought out the remainder of his contract at Besiktas.

McLeish has made no secret of his desire to strengthen his back four after failing to land Gary Cahill before the transfer deadline.

But the former Scotland boss said: 'His name came on my desk but it is nothing more than that at the moment. I am looking at it but I haven't done anything as regards bringing him in.

'I think somebody said that I'd signed him but it is only a name on my desk and I believe he is out of contract so that's the situation. He'd be a free agent.'

Diatta has previously played in the French league with Toulouse, Marseille, Rennes, Lyon and St Etienne and was part of the Senegal squad which has been participating in the African Nations Cup.